Whole Foods Product-Packaging Lawsuit Dismissed

On Tuesday, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against defendant Whole Foods Market Group, Inc. over product packaging. Judge Elaine E. Bucklo of the Northern District of Illinois dismissed the case in its entirety, finding that the plaintiffs’ failed to meet their burden that consumers would be misled.

The putative class-action complaint, which was filed in the Northern District of Illinois, alleged that Whole Foods violated consumer-protection statutes and the common law  by selling products in boxes that were unnecessarily large.

The complaint’s allegations focused on long grain and wild rice products. Plaintiff asserted that although Whole Foods repeatedly committed to reduce food-packaging waste, the company “intentionally [misled] consumers about the amount of product they are purchasing by sizing the boxes to fit store shelves, rather than to fit the volume of product they contain.” 

Plaintiffs’ legal claims included the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act, Magnusson Moss Warranty Act, several states’ consumer-protection statutes, breach of implied warranty of merchantability, negligent misrepresentation, fraud, and unjust enrichment.

Whole Foods moved to dismiss, arguing that the packaging accurately represented the boxes’ contents, and that information “dispels any uncertainty a reasonable consumer might have about the amount of rice pilaf one box yields.”

On Tuesday, Judge Elaine Bucklo dismissed the case in its entirety, holding that the plaintiff’s claims didn’t sufficiently demonstrate that a reasonable consumer would be misled, or that “a significant portion of the general consuming public or targeted consumers, acting reasonably in the circumstances, could be misled.” The court further held that a reasonable consumer would expect the size of the box to bear a loose relationship to the amount of content the food might yield, since rice is cooked and expands in volume. Lastly, the court held that the plaintiff’s remaining claims “either hinge on his flawed theory of deception of suffer from separate procedural or substantive shortcomings.” 

Plaintiff was represented by Lubin Austermuehle and Sheehan & Associates; Whole Foods Market Group was represented by Blaxter Blackman LLP and the Law Offices of Joseph D. Ryan.